In the midst of a process in which gaming companies seek answers to mitigate the damage caused by COVID-19, our expert, Matias Celis, considers to what extent operators and regulators have previously developed alternative plans to better respond to the global emergency and stay solid in business terms.
By Matias Celis, Regulatory Specialist on Gaming Development and Control*
It’s been 120 days since the Coronavirus appeared and started spreading, and it seems the world has radically changed. We have to go back centuries ago to check this level of severity and uncertainty in the different manifestations of a pandemic. Many of our daily habits (if not all) have been modified: the ways we travel, where and how we work, how we educate our youngsters and children, and in which way we entertain ourselves. I want to analyze this last point. How is the gambling industry dealing with this never expected before situation, with land-based gaming totally paralyzed almost all over the world? Besides, how can we find some kind of solution to reduce the damage?
EVALUATING THE SCOPE OF COVID-19 EFFECT
The impact itself over the gaming industry, in terms of bingos and casinos, has undoubtedly been serious. There are few precedents where we can find such drastic conditions, with gaming halls totally empty and no operational in the main global gaming markets. While we can find a similar situation in other industries, with many shops closed, there are also some differences. I’m referring to thinking about the variables and tools that technology provides to regulatory entities and gaming operators for them to have an alternative plan, not only to face a crisis or an emergency like this one, but in general terms. It’s important for companies to have different options and initiatives to maintain profitability and increase business, no matter what the context is. This also applies to regulators about the gambling taxes they collect.
THE URGENT NEED FOR UPDATE
When looking at how operators and regulators are standing today in the world to deal with this crisis, I notice that there was no renovation in their strategies to protect themselves against this type of force majeure situation. They search for urgent responses, but there was no planning to be prudent and keep up with the advancement of technologies. Thus, considering the benefits of being in tune with the current state of gaming technology, I think that, for LatAm companies in particular, the time has come to bring themselves up to date. I’m talking about using new technologies already regulated and implemented in Europe and in other parts of the world, such as online gaming platforms.
In some jurisdictions of Argentina, regulators have tried to include and approve this modality, but those attempts have failed, getting stuck in bureaucratic processes. In other territories of the country, online gaming regulation is still in development. Just like two decades ago, the alternative to traditional bingos was the installment of slot machines, making operators profitable for they could keep on existing, today, I think that online platforms are no longer a novelty, but an urgent necessity. Once the online vertical has been incorporated, gaming companies in Latin America will be able to offer a different and attractive alternative to their clients to bet anywhere, anytime. As for regulators, taking this technology into account and regulating the activity will let them collect much more money, and prevent the spread of illegal gambling, benefits that will undoubtedly strengthen the entire industry.
*Matias Celis, Regulatory Specialist on Gaming Development and Control, is a lawyer graduated from the University of La Plata (Buenos Aires Province, Argentina), with 11 years of experience in different legal matters. After some time, and due to his research spirit and his search to deepen his knowledge, he became a specialist in the regulation and exploitation of gaming, both in land-based and in the online universes. Currently, he is part of the M&M law firm and is a consultant on regulatory issues related to gaming.